There are many everday objects dirtier and crawling with more bacteria than a toilet, studies say. These are things that don’t get cleaned as much as toilets do, making them breeding grounds for all sorts of germs.
Researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found that one out of six smartphones contain fecal matter. In a separate study, Charles Gerba, a microbiologist from the University of Arizona, discovered that cellphones contain 10 times more bacteria than toilet seats, Chicago Sun Times reports.
But the dirtiest items in terms of bacteria are footwear. Gerba found that it takes only two weeks for a brand new pair of shoes to gather 421,000 units of bacteria. Around 27% of footwear he studied carried E. coli, which means “frequent contact with fecal material, which most likely originates from floors in public restrooms or contact with animal fecal material outdoors.” Washing shoes with detergent got rid of 90% of the bacteria, including fecal matter.
Next on the list are kitchen sinks. Gerba said,
If an alien came from space and studied the bacterial counts, he probably would conclude he should wash his hands in your toilet and crap in your sink.
Kitchen sinks have more bacteria that both garbage cans and toilets. A damp kitchen sponge is the worst, which can be up to 200,000 times dirtier than a toilet. Cleaning the sink with hot, soapy water and wiping it down with disinfectants solves the problem. As for sponges, stick them in the microwave for a minute while they are wet.
Playground equipment found outdoors are dirtier than shopping cart handles and port-o-potties, Gerba said. “Playgrounds are essentially public toilets for birds, and you’ll never see, say, a soccer ball without E.coli on it,” so he cautions parents to bring hand sanitizer when taking kids to outdoor playgrounds.
Reusable shopping bags, which 97% of people never wash, also create a breeding ground for potentially disease-carrying bacteria. These include food-borne illnesses that may be fatal for children. Washing the bags thoroughly kills almost all of the bacteria build-up.
As for smartphones, they generally carry a single set of germs so they won’t make owners sick. But sharing devices, such as iPads, carry a higher risk for sickness. Disinfect by using wipes to clean the surfaces of phones, tablets and other items that people touch all the time, like remote controls.